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Sikh with turban taken back in US Army

world Updated: Dec 12, 2009 10:17 IST

IANS
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A campaign by Sikhs in America has resulted in the US Army accepting another Sikh recruit for active duty with his religious identity intact. It will be for the first time in 23 years that Sikhs will serve in the US Army with their turbans and unshorn hair.

Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan, a dentist, and Captain Kamaljit Singh Kalsi, a doctor, were asked by the army to remove their turbans and cut hair before they could be allowed to join active duty earlier this year. The two Sikhs had just completed an army programme that paid for their medical education in return for military service.

Both they refused to remove their turbans and shave their hair, leading to protests and petitions by the community.

After a signature and lobbying campaign launched by Sikh organizations, including the Sikh Coalition, on Vaisakhi day, the US Army first announced in October to accept Captain Kalsi back with his turban.

Now it has also decided to accept Captain Rattan.

The army had banned "conspicuous'' religious articles of faith for its members in 1981. However, some Sikhs who had joined before that date were allowed to practice their religious identity.

But the authorities have made only one-time exception for the two Sikh officers, without announcing any change in its overall recruitment policy. It is, however, willing to review its general policy of excluding Sikhs from future service.

"The individual accommodations for Captain Tejdeep Singh and Captain Kamaljeet Singh have significant implications for Sikh employees,'' said Sikh Coalition in a statement Friday.

"Ending discrimination in the US Army sends a message to all other employers, both private and public, that discrimination against Sikhs who maintain their articles of faith is not acceptable,'' it said.

Thousands of Sikhs had sent petitions to the army to take the two recruits back with their religious identity.